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School of Engineering to host High School Design Competition

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hundreds of high school students from Kansas and the Kansas City metro area will look to stake their claim as the top engineering team in the region at an upcoming competition sponsored by the University of Kansas School of Engineering.
2010 High School Design Competition

The 2010 High School Design Competition is set for Nov. 9 at Eaton Hall. This year’s event centers on the theme “Claim the Terrain” and challenges competitors to design a multi-terrain vehicle about the size of a shoe box that can successfully traverse three KU-themed miniature landscapes.

The sand track is “Wescoe Beach.” The hilly course is “Mount Oread.” And the “Memorial Stadium” track will be field turf. Teams will earn points on the distance the vehicle travels, the time it takes to navigate each course and on vehicle design — which includes an oral presentation to a panel of judges.

“We really liked the presentation aspect of this,” said Chloe Wooldridge, design competition marketing coordinator. “It seems a lot of high school students think engineering is just sitting in a cubicle and building things. This shows the importance of being able to articulate details clearly to people who are not as tech-savvy as they are.”

Between 50 and 60 teams composed of two to four students each are expected to compete. The top 10 finishers from the preliminary round advance to the finals, “Journey Across Campus.” There, teams will be tested on smaller sections of the three original terrains, as well as two surprise courses that won’t be revealed until the finals begin, though organizers have offered a few hints about them:

For the gravel course: While Jayhawk Boulevard may not be made out of chalk rock, aka limestone -- the material Mt. Oread consists of -- it is still a major part of KU, and no journey through campus would be complete without traveling over it (or at least a material used to make it).

Slickwood: KU is known for basketball, and every student that attends KU can tell you about how magical Allen Fieldhouse is. It is consistently voted in the top ten among all college basketball arenas. Will your team be able to use the home court advantage?

“This competition is a great experience for learning about how engineering design and the engineering process works,” said competition coordinator Eric Witthaus. “Presentation, teamwork and learning how to tackle engineering problems are all things that engineers need to do every day.”

When not racing in the terrain competition, students can try their hands — or in this case, their feet — at another form of engineering entertainment. Students will be given a set of materials to make stomp rockets — a rudimentary projectile powered by pounding a foot on a launch pad. Organizers also plan to provide lunch.

“This entire day sets these students up to learn more about the field and have a positive experience,” Witthaus said. “It lets them see if they like engineering and want to do this. Then, if they like it, it can provide excitement for what they are going to do in college and beyond.”

Teams must register online by Oct. 29. 

Click here for online registration form.

Teams must also fill out

this form

 that provides organizers with specifics about your design.  This version requires Office 2007.

If you are unable to use that form,

click here for an older version


Please e-mail the completed form to Lucy McGilley at


High School Design Competition Rules

Claim the Terrain


Working in groups of two to four students in ninth through 12


grade, each team must design and build a small self-propelled vehicle that can quickly traverse a variety of terrains.  Designs must be approved by contest coordinators by Oct. 29, 2010, and each team must construct its multiple terrain vehicle prior to arrival at the competition on Nov. 9, 2010.

Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. and the competition starts promptly at

9:15 a.m.

in Eaton Hall at the University of Kansas.

In the preliminary round, each team will have three timed runs on each of three terrain tracks. Points will be awarded using a formula based on the fastest time andthe farthest distance traveled from each terrain trial.  Each team also will give a presentation with a visual aid on their design. The presentation and design concept also will earn a team points. 

The top 10 teams based on points awarded will proceed to the finals competition and the Ultimate Terrain.

In the finals round, the top 10 teams will carry forward their design presentation points, however, points from the preliminary round of terrain trials do not carry forward.  Points will be awarded using a formula based on the best performance on a new combined terrain track.  The team earning the highest point total at the end of the competition will be deemed the grand champion.

Rules will be modified and clarified as questions arise and updates will be posted online. 

Participants are advised to check back frequently.

Teams violating “the spirit of the competition” will be disqualified.

Multiple Terrain Vehicle Rules

  • All teams must submit final designs for their vehicle to the KU School of Engineering by October 29, 2010, for approval.  Teams can submit a design immediately after registering for the event.  Any changes that are made to the drivetrain of the vehicle will require a resubmission of the design specifications.  If a design plan is rejected, teams are allowed to modify and resubmit their design.

  • The vehicle must fit within a 12-inch x 18-inch box, which will be the size of the vehicle launch area. The vehicle must not change shape or size after the initial fitting.

  • There are no height restrictions.

  • Electric motors and batteries may be used, but there are restrictions.

  • Motor must be powered by no more than 9 Volts DC.

  • No prepackaged/premade motor/gear-train combinations may be used

  • No AC current may be used

  • Charging of batteries must be done via a 100-percent safe process

  • No pre-packaged kits may be used (ex. Mousetrap car kits, remote controlled vehicles, etc.)

  • No fire, compressed air or combustibles may power this vehicle.

  • Conservation of mass must be maintained from the start to finish. (Things cannot fall off the vehicle during the race)

  • Live animals are not allowed. Neither are dead animals.

  • Vehicle must maintain continuous contact with the terrain throughout the course. (No air vehicles)

  • Teams must not aid in the propulsion of the car (for example, no touching or blowing) .  This will be monitored by the judges at each station.

  • Controlled reactions are allowed as long as all byproducts stay contained within the car.  If a controlled reaction is used, the team must notify the KU School of Engineering to seek design approval by Monday, Oct. 18.

  • No vehicle modifications are allowed between terrains.  Exceptions for vehicle repairs are at the discretion of the judges.

  • No remote/radio controlled vehicles. (The vehicle must run on its own power and may not be controlled in any way by the team once each trial starts)



                  Exact event specifications are still being finalized. The following are the basics of what each terrain will be.  

Check back often for updates.

  •  Three terrains will each have a competition length of 12 feet, and be 2 feet wide. Each terrain track will have railings or walls situated at 6 inches above the track surface.  Each track will be located on the ground with the exception of the Mount Oread track.

  • Teams will have 3 trials per terrain and a maximum run time of 2 minutes (120 seconds) per trial.

  • There will be an additional 24-inch starting and finishing area on each end

  • The Finishing area will feature a stopping barrier and padding so vehicles do not fly off terrain courses

  • Terrain 1:

    Wescoe Beach (sand)- 3 to 4 inches deep

  • Vehicles will start on a hard surface then progress onto sand

  • Sand will be raked by judges and approved by teams before each trial

  • Terrain 2:

    Mount Oread (hill) 6-12% grade incline

  • The terrain will start at floor level and rise to a height of 1.5 feet above the ground.  The 24-inch start area will be level.

  • The course material will be concrete.  

  • Terrain 3:

    Memorial Stadium (field turf)

  • Start area will be covered in same turf as terrain (so there are no difficulties in getting onto terrain)

  • Design Evaluation and Presentation  

  • Each team will give a 5-minute presentation on the design of their vehicle and how it was designed.  The team must have some sort of poster display to show what it has done and then be able to explain it and answer a few questions.  More than one team member must participate in the oral presentation.


  • Ultimate Terrain: Journey across Campus

  • Teams participating will be selected based on sum of points accrued during the three terrain trials and the design presentation. The top 10 teams will advance to the finals.

  • Points from preliminary terrain trials will not carry over to final round, but the design evaluation and presentation score will

  • The finals round competition will consist of three runs on a track that features the three previous terrains and two surpriseterrains all combined on a single track (The Ultimate Terrain.)

  • Teams will be given clues through email and online posts to the nature of the surprise terrains as the competition approaches.

  • The winner will be the team with the lowest average time of three (3) trials (assuming completion) + design evaluation and presentation score.  If no teams complete the terrain, the team with the largest average distance traveled will be the winner.


Scoring Formula Preliminary Round

Score = 25 points for completion of each terrain + 25*(overall fastest time/your time)*(distance traveled/length of terrain) Time will be measured in seconds. Distance will be measured in feet.


Point System

  • Terrain 1, 2, and 3: up to 50 points each, using the best of three runs (see scoring formula, above) 

  • The terrain points will be based on both distance traveled and time taken.

  • There will be a maximum time limit of 120 seconds (2 minutes) allowed to complete each trial.  This allows for the rare scenario where every team does not finish an event.

  • The actual distance traveled allows for vehicles that may not finish a particular terrain event.

  • The timer will start when the foremost part of the vehicle crosses the starting line and will end when the rearmost part of the vehicle crosses the finish line.

  • If the vehicle jumps the course, then the team will receive the max time for that event and the distance that was traveled inside the course will be used for the score equation.

  • Design Evaluation and Presentation:  Up to 50 points

  • Presentation Board: 15 Points

  • Communication/Oral Presentation skills: 15 Points

  • Design/Creativity: 20 Points

  • Subcategories: Judges will look for a variety of design considerations. Details will be announced soon, however they may include aspects such as:

    • Aesthetics

    • Creativity in solution

    • Power method

    • Material use

  • The Ultimate Terrain: Up to 50 points, using criteria previously described. (For Top 10 Finalists, only)



Awards will be presented for several achievements, including:

  • Best Presentation/Design

  • Best Score in each terrain

  • Grand Champion


Questions and Rule Revisions

Friday, Oct. 1:

Q:  Our team was planning on using a 9.6v NiCad Battery, is this acceptable?


A:  Yes, we will allow standard 9.6 V (NiCad, Lithium-Ion, etc.) batteries.


Q: Can a student use a mousetrap as a part of their car for Claim the Terrain if it is NOT part of a kit?

A: Yes, students may use mousetraps as part of their car if it is not part of a pre-fab mouse trap car kit.


Q: Do we have to make our own gears?

A: No

Wednesday, Oct. 6:

Q: What can be purchased?  Batteries? Chassis? Suspension? Motors? Bodies? Wheels?

A: Anything can be purchased as long as it adheres to the rules and is not purchased (or built together) from a kit. (Ex. Please don’t buy a K'Nex kit and use it alone to build your vehicle. However, pieces can be used with other items.)

Q: How many 9V batteries can be tied together?

A: You can use unlimited 9 V batteries if they are connected in parallel, not a series.

Q: How are gears obtained?  Are there restrictions on how they are obtained?

A: They can be obtained from any source, but teams need to develop their own gear train.

Q: Do we need to build our own wheels?

A: No.  Teams do not need to build their own wheels, but are welcome to do so.

Q: We see the size must remain the same, but can you project something, then retract it back into place?  Can this happen multiple times? 

A: Yes, as long as it stays within the maximum allowable size. Yes, it can happen multiple times.

Tuesday, Oct. 19

Q:  Is there anything that is specifically needed for the presentations, or any type of rules or regulations we should follow?

A: Yes, the presentations will be judged on overall communication skills. Specifically, looking at verbal communication, body language, and a student’s ability to concisely deliver information about their project.

Friday, Oct. 22

Q: What type of concrete will the terrain be made of?


A: We will be using pavers purchased at Home Depot, please see the

this link

for exact dimensions:






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